Jeremy Maddock is a freelance writer, webmaster, and libertarian-conservative thinker from Victoria, Canada.


A Guide to Removing Section 13 from the Canadian Human Rights Act

February 4, 2008 | In Miscellaneous | No Comments

As I stated in my recent blog entry, contacting Members of Parliament is the first step in removing this frightening piece of thought control from our so called “human rights” legislation. Several people have asked to see my letter to local MP, Keith Martin, which seems to have triggered his Private Members Bill (M-446) to have s. 13 struck down. Here is a copy of that letter (below) preceded by a few tips how to “educate” your own MP…

  1. Be sure to send your letter supporting Motion M-446 by regular mail, as opposed to email. Many MPs get dozens or hundreds of emails each day, and are likely to pay more attention to letters arriving by post.
  2. Think about including some genuine praise of your MP (or their party) in your letter. Most elected representatives (even Liberals and NDP-ers) have made some positive efforts along the line, and appreciate getting letters from people who recognize their hard work. If you honestly can’t think of anything then don’t lie or bullshit, but don’t be overly critical either. Try and put a positive, encouraging spin on your message.
  3. Keep a decidedly moderate tone if possible. As tempting as it might be, try not to get up on a general soapbox, or launch into a rant. Don’t attack the Human Rights Act or hate propaganda laws in general, even if you think they should be scrapped or cut back. Focus on section 13 as the intolerable assault on freedom that it is.
  4. Whatever you do, don’t come across as a racist. I don’t want to insult anyone’s intelligence, but the radical left loves labeling people as “racist,” whether or not this label is correct.
  5. If you are a racist, please keep quiet, as letters from obvious bigots will do irreparable harm to this cause. If you care about your right to free speech then don’t make this out to be a “white supremacist” issue. The CBC already has that angle covered. ;)
  6. If you feel like writing a long letter (more than half a page), mention some of the many problems with section 13 (this shouldn’t be all that hard). For example…
    • This section was originally designed to prevent employers and landlords from leaving discriminatory messages on answering machines. It is now being used to police thought on the internet and in magazines.
    • Alan Borovoy, general counsel of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, recently observed that censoring otherwise free speech was never the intention of activists, like himself, who helped bring human rights laws into being in the first place.
    • Before being elected Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper said in an interview that “Human Rights Commissions, as they are evolving, are an attack on our fundamental freedoms and the basic existence of a democratic society. It is in fact totalitarianism. I find this very scary stuff.” (This should especially be included if you are writing to a Conservative MP, or to Prime Minister Harper himself.)
    • Section 13 of the Human Rights Act has recently been used against author, Mark Steyn, and publisher, Ezra Levant, for doing nothing more than publishing controversial material. Information about these cases are pretty easy to come by via a simple Google search.
    • Section 13 of the Human Rights Act serves a very different purpose from “hate propaganda” laws (sections 318 and 319 of the Criminal Code), which only apply to the willful promotion of hatred in a public place.
    • In a real courtroom, a person charged with distributing “hate propaganda” is given a real trial, and cannot be convicted if the views expressed are true, or based on an honestly held personal or religious belief. In human rights tribunals, truth is no defense, honest belief is no defense, and lack of intent is no defense.
    • “Hate propaganda” laws apply exclusively to deliberate, explicitly hateful remarks, whereas section 13 of the Human Rights Act applies to “any matter that is likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt by reason of the fact that that person or those persons are identifiable on the basis of a prohibited ground of discrimination.” Technically, any type of criticism could be interpreted as likely to cause contempt, meaning that criticism of anybody on the basis of race, sex, sexual orientation, etc., is currently an illegal act in Canada.
    • 100% of the people ever charged under section 13 have been found guilty and forced to apologize for their opinions, fined, and/or subjected to lifetime speech bans preventing them from publicly discussing certain issues and topics.
    • Over the past twenty years, Human Rights Commissions have become increasingly liberal in their interpretation of section 13, and there is no reason to assume that this trend will not continue in the years to come.

Here is a copy of my letter to Keith Martin, exactly as it was sent in mid-December:

Dear Mr. Martin

As an elector in the Greater Victoria area, I am writing to express my concern about a serious civil liberties issue currently facing this country. I am a second-year university student studying Political Science, and have recently conducted a fair amount of research into Canada’s federal Human Rights legislation, its strengths, and its weaknesses.

As a dedicated civil libertarian, I have a lot of respect for the Liberal Party of Canada’s strong belief in individual freedom, as is demonstrated by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I also acknowledge and respect the importance of equality and human rights in any free and democratic society.

I take issue, however, with certain sections of Canada’s Human Rights Act, and am calling on you, your party, and all MPs in the House of Commons to consider making improvements. The part of the Act that I am most concerned about is section 13(1), dealing with “Hate Messages:”

13.(1) It is a discriminatory practice for a person or a group of persons acting in concert to communicate telephonically or to cause to be so communicated, repeatedly, in whole or in part by means of the facilities of a telecommunication undertaking within the legislative authority of Parliament, any matter that is likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt by reason of the fact that that person or those persons are identifiable on the basis of a prohibited ground of discrimination.

Although undoubtedly well intentioned, I feel that section 13(1) has been misused in recent years. Its scope has been expanded to suppress unpopular opinions regarding issues like immigration and multiculturalism. Initially designed to prevent discriminatory actions against employees, tenants, etc., from being carried out over telephone networks, this piece of legislation is now being used to prevent certain political opinions from being published online or in the press.

I understand that most of the political opinions being suppressed are abhorrent to say the least, but I feel that any state control over the honestly held political beliefs of citizens is dangerous and could easily be abused by future governments. In recent years, the Canadian Human Rights Commission has expanded its jurisdiction into cases which have nothing to do with employment or housing discrimination, and there is nothing to say that its influence will not expand further in the years to come.

Case in point, the Commission has recently accepted a complaint by the Canadian Islamic Congress against Macleans Magazine, for printing an excerpt from a controversial book entitled: America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It. The published excerpt, entitled “The Future Belongs to Islam,” apparently suggests that there is a connection between terrorism and Middle Eastern immigration. If the Canadian Islamic Congress succeeds in its complaint, the expression of this opinion could become an illegal act in Canada.

Personally, I feel that contentious political and cultural beliefs (even the offensive and mistaken ones) should be challenged and debated freely, rather than suppressed and criminalized by governments. Imposing fines and lifetime speech bans against those with unpopular opinions does not solve the problems of racism and intolerance. It only breeds greater resentment, and makes martyrs out of raving extremists who ultimately deserve to be ignored.

I should also point out that people charged only under section 13(1) of the Human Rights Act are, by definition, not guilty of spreading “hate propaganda,” as this potentially more serious offense is already addressed by sections 318 and 319 of the Canadian Criminal Code.

Those who are charged under the Criminal Code are given fair and unbiased trial, where truth is a defense and the crown must prove criminal intent on the part of the offender. The court is required to take all facts into account, and make an impartial ruling as to whether the deliberate expression of hate propaganda has occurred.

The Canadian Human Rights Commission, however, is able to sanction anybody for expressing any opinion that might expose minority groups to hatred, contempt, or even criticism. No consideration is given to whether the opinions expressed are true, if they are based on an honestly held belief, or if the offender actually intended to cause hatred or contempt.

It is because of this very low burden of proof that 100% of the the people ever charged under section 13(1) of the Act have been found guilty and punished with crippling fines and/or lifelong Cease and Desist orders preventing them from publicly discussing certain issues and subjects. The penalty for disobeying such an order is up to five years of jail time.

It is clear to me that that section 13(1) of the Human Rights Act has opened up a dangerous slippery slope. It is used against a growing number of people each year, and is now used more often to punish dissent than to prevent discrimination. Most disturbingly of all, it is beginning to target mainstream Canadian media outlets for doing nothing more than publishing controversial articles.

For Canada to remain a free and open society, Canadians must be allowed to express their honestly held beliefs on contentious issues without fear of government sanctions. Section 13(1) does not allow for such an expression of beliefs, and should therefore be struck out of our Human Rights Act.

I seriously hope that you will act as a voice within your party and the House of Commons as a whole, to ensure equal freedom of speech for all Canadians.

Yours Sincerely,

Jeremy Maddock.

And Dr. Martin’s subsequent reply (dated January 24, 2008):

Dear Mr. Maddock,

Thank you for your very intriguing correspondence regarding section 13(1) of the Human Rights Act. You educated me on this issue.

If a person is saying things that meet the criteria for hate propaganda, then this is a criminal matter and should be dealt with in the courts. Everything else, no matter how crazy, should be allowed to be said. Restricting freedom of speech is a very dangerous slope.

I will put a motion in to have this clause removed from Canada’s Human Rights Act.

Thank you for writing me to express your concerns.


Dr. Keith Martin, M.D., P.C., M.P.
Member of Parliament for Esquimalt – Juan de Fuca

Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act – Dying at Last???

February 2, 2008 | In Law, Politics | 2 Comments

I don’t usually tout my own horn, but in this case I think it might be justified… As I explained in December, section 13 of the Human Rights Act poses a serious threat to the fundamental freedoms of Canadians. But my recent letter to a local Member of Parliament, Dr. Keith Martin, might have been the first step in killing it.

“Thank you for your very intriguing correspondence regarding section 13(1) of the Human Rights Act,” Martin wrote in response to my letter, which laid out the frightening legal implications of this draconian legislation. “You educated me on this issue.”

Martin promised to “put a motion in to have this clause removed from Canada’s Human Rights Act,” and followed through earlier this week, introducing Private Members Bill M-446. I am very encouraged that some of our elected representatives are still willing to transcend party lines to stand up for what is right. By taking this action, Dr. Martin has earned my sincerest respect.

At this point in time, I would strongly urge all freedom-loving Canadians to write their Members of Parliament and support this motion. My fairly basic, two-page letter apparently educated Dr. Martin on this issue, but his motion will only do the trick if all MPs understand what is at stake.

Please take a few minutes to ensure that your elected representative understands… (Click here for a guide to writing anti-Section 13 letters, and here to look up the mailing address of your local MP.)